Tag Archives: entertainment

Entertainment attorney Jason Zelin joins Fountain Theatre Board of Directors

Jason Zelin

Jason Zelin

The Fountain Theatre is pleased to welcome attorney Jason Zelin to the Board of Directors. Mr. Zelin is a special counsel at the Sheppard Mullin law firm in the Entertainment, Technology and Advertising Practice Group in Century City.

Joining the board of the Fountain Theatre is a culmination of this lifelong love of theatre and he “is thrilled to be part of the most vibrant and thought-provoking theatre experience in Los Angeles.”

Mr. Zelin has extensive experience in many facets of the entertainment industry, from both the legal/business and the creative perspectives. In addition to working at private law firms, Mr. Zelin has worked inside the entertainment industry in several capacities, including:

  • Director of Business and Legal Affairs at Warner Bros. Television
  • Vice President of Film Acquisition at Vestron Video
  • Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at The Feldman/Meeker Company
  • Vice President of Acquisitions of Lorimar Pictures
  • Vice President of the Completion Bond Co.
  • Executive Vice President of Business Affairs at Village Roadshow Pictures
  • Executive Vice President of Miramax Films
  • President and Chief Operating Officer for Miracle Entertainment
  • Producer for the film “Killing Pablo

In these roles, Mr. Zelin negotiated talent deals, network licensing agreements, literary acquisitions as well as scripted and unscripted television development and production. Working outside film studios, he bonded more than $100 million in budgeted new films, and served as a primary liaison with studios. When working as part of film studios, Mr. Zelin also gained experience supervising all legal and business aspects of multi-national productions, and developed film projects with such notables as Ridley Scott, Will Smith, and Janet Yang. As a result of his extensive experience, Mr. Zelin is able to provide valuable insight into many aspects of the entertainment industry garnered from his many decades “in the trenches.”

“In addition to a great deal of knowledge and experience in the entertainment industry, Jason brings to the Board his passion and enthusiasm for the theatre,” says  Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “We look forward to his guidance as we move onward into the next important phase of growth for the organization.”    

Theatre: Entertainment or art? Can it be both and still be challenging and relevant?

zelda-fichandler

Zelda Fichandler (1924-2016)

by Howard Shalwitz

The loss of my friend and colleague Zelda Fichandler, the legendary founder of Arena Stage, has got me thinking about the role of theatre in our society.

Over the past decade, I had a few cherished opportunities to compare notes with Zelda about the founding of our respective theatres. As different as Arena Stage and Woolly Mammoth are, there’s one word that always came up for both of us: art. Here’s a quote from Bob Levey’s obituary of Zelda in the Washington Post:

“From the start, Mrs. Fichandler wanted… to reverse what she called, with characteristic dramatic flourish, ‘the contraction and imminent death of the art of the theater.”

And here’s a quote from Woolly Mammoth’s founding manifesto that I wrote with Roger Brady in 1978:

“Among all the art forms, theatre is the one which is least often taken seriously as a form of art… [and] it should be so taken. That is the long and short of what we propose.”

What do we mean when we proclaim that theatre is “art” rather than “entertainment?” We certainly don’t mean that theatre shouldn’t entertain, shouldn’t captivate audiences with diversion and delight and amazement. The survival of our theatres depends on this. The difference lies in what we ask our audiences to do when they’re in our theatres.

When we set out to entertain, we ask our audiences to sit back, relax, and enjoy themselves on terms they already understand. When we set out to make art, we ask our audiences to sit forward, to encounter something different, and to meet the artists halfway in figuring out how it works and what it means. Entertainment nestles us comfortably inside the lives we already lead. Art challenges us to stand outside our own experience and look at our lives and our world in new ways.

Art and entertainment are not mutually exclusive. Every play, every production, has elements of both. But in our conversations, Zelda was concerned that theatres across America were tipping too far toward entertainment and away from art. Some of the reasons are obvious: competition for ticket sales, pressure from new forms of diversion, loss of arts education in our schools, shrinking government support.

However, Zelda saw a potentially deeper problem. A couple of years ago, she asked a question I’ll never forget: “What’s happened to the arrogance of the artist in our country?” She talked about path-breaking playwrights like Arthur Miller, Caryl Churchill, and August Wilson, who boldly expanded the stylistic framework and political range of our theatre, and European stage directors like Liviu Ciulei and Lucien Pintilie, whose experimental approaches completely changed the way we look at classic works.

The forward motion of theatre as an art form depends on playwrights, directors, designers, and actors with the arrogance, the chutzpah, to try things that are different. It also depends on audiences who have the confidence to meet them with openness, empathy, and a spirit of inquiry. When we wrestle with the play itself, then we’re led to wrestle with what the play is about, what it’s saying, why it matters. This is what gives the art form of theatre its relevance in relation to the pressing questions our society is facing.

Howard Shalwitz is the Artistic Director at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC. 

Art or Entertainment? Or Both?

Award-winning author and music educator Eric Booth (Julliard, Stanford, the Kennedy Center) shares his distinction between art and entertainment.  For Booth, entertainment confirms what we already know. It affirms our sense of the world. We laugh or cry or are thrilled by entertainment that mirrors back life as we know it and says to us, “Yes, this is the (absurd, crazy, funny, tragic) way life is.”  There is something pleasing and comforting and enjoyable and empowering in the confirmation  of entertainment.

Art asks us to enter worlds outside our experience. It expands our sense of the possible. Booth goes on to say that our culture bombards us with an avalanche of information and entertainment, making this act of thinking outside the known, the comfortable, the given, an act of courage for the artist and the person experiencing it.  And that is the role of art: to support and inspire that courageous leap of the imagination.

Is entertainment the enemy of art? Are they polar opposites? Can you have both?

What do you think?

‘Cyrano’ Actor and Playwright Nab Ovation Award Nominations

Troy Kotsur as Cyrano

The Fountain Theatre‘s acclaimed and sold-out co-production with Deaf West Theatre of Cyrano received two Ovation Award nominations last night.   Actor Troy Kotsur has been nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Play for his lead role as Cyrano , and playwright  Stephen Sachs for Best Original Play.

The Ovation Awards are considered LA’s version of the Tony Awards. Founded in 1989 by the LA Stage Alliance, the  Ovation Awards are the only peer-judged theater awards in Los Angeles. To give you an idea of the size and scope of the theatrical landscape in Southern California, there were 400 total productions registered for Ovation Award consideration from 173 companies throughout the region.  For the 2011-12 voting season, there are a grand total of 191 nominations for 77 productions, presented by 50 companies.

The Fountain Theatre has the distinction of receiving more nominations and winning more awards than any other intimate theatre in the history of the Ovation Awards.

For a complete list of the current Ovation Award nominees, click here.

The 2012 Ovation Awards ceremony will take place on Monday, November 12, at the historic Los Angeles Theatre, 615 South Broadway, in downtown Los Angeles, at 7:30 pm.  For more information: www.LASTAGEOvations.com.